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  • stl_reader
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    Thought it was time for a new version of this topic.

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    Highlander by Kerrigan Byrne C+ or B<-/strong>, can’t decide
    Wicked Intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt A-

    Highlander was a bit of a snoozer for me. I personally don’t think it brought us anything terribly original, though I think the potential was there. The book contains a certain amount of violence, particularly in the first 20-30 pages. If you loved the gigantic, violent men who were featured in the previous two books of this series, I imagine you’ll love Liam, the hero in this story. Personally, I’d characterize him as being just this side of a caveman. I realize his terrible upbringing informs his actions, but I can only take so many temper tantrums and threats to kill any other man who dares to express an interest in the heroine…

    If you decide to give Highlander a go, be prepared for insta-lust on the part of the hero (the heroine is slightly slower to come around) and perpetual lusting and fantasizing on both sides–they actually don’t do the deed until about 3/4 of the way through the 350+ page book. Also be prepared for the trope where the heroine keeps a secret from the man she claims to love and trust, even though telling him the secret clearly seemed to me to be the right and intelligent thing to do.

    Note to the Ms. Byrne: Please stop using the latter-half-of-the-20th-century verb “to morph” in your 19th century historicals. You used it in a previous book and at least twice in The Highlander and it completely took me out of the story.

    Wicked Intentions was a re-read for me. Ahh, the first and best book of Elizabeth Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series, IMHO (with Duke of Sin coming in second). And as I recall, this book about a man who hates to be touched and loves to tie women up preceded 50 Shades of Grey. I think I like it better now than when I first read it. But it’s not for readers who don’t like crude sex.

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    A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley

    This one had been in my TBR pile for a while, and I finally found myself in the right mood for it this weekend. I’ve read most of Kearsley’s other novels, which usually alternate between two time periods: one contemporary and one historical (often about Jacobites in the 18th century). Sometimes there is a time travel or paranormal element in her stories; there was not in this one, and I was glad for it. The historical thread in this novel takes place in 1732. This got off to a slow and predictable start, especially if you’ve read Kearsley’s other dual time novels, but it gained momentum in the second half, which made up for a rather ho-hum, been there, seen that before, first half. I usually much prefer the historical couples to the present day in Kearsley’s novels and this was no exception. Sometimes her plots and/or relationships can feel forced, and that was the case for the present-day couple, which involves a young woman with Asperger’s decoding the diary left behind by the heroine in the historical thread. However, I really enjoyed the subtle, slow-burning romance in the historical thread and how true the hero and heroine stayed to their commoner roots, and the importance of that in story’s ending. I felt the story got much better once heroine’s feelings toward the hero began to thaw in roughly the last third of the book. The gradual, quiet and tender way that happens is well done and it ends beautifully (turned out to be one of my favorite endings in a very long time), and I would rank the hero as my favorite by the author so far. Highly recommended if you enjoy subtle romances or have enjoyed Kearsley’s other books, but be prepared for a slow start and a payoff that very gradually creeps up on you.

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    @stl_reader, I also found The Highlander a bit of a snooze. I was disappointed because I really enjoyed Byrne’s previous book The Hunter because I thought she didn’t shy away from the fact that the hero in it was a flat out assassin who has some kind of awakening and it was a bit different from the norm. I thought the blurb for The Highlander they put in The Hunter was a great set up and introduction for the hero and heroine so I was expecting more from the novel. It seemed like something I read a hundred times before and I really get sick of the “jealous for no reason” hero who keeps accusing the heroine of doing stuff he has no evidence for and has no reason to be mad about. Unlike The Hunter, the secondary characters weren’t interesting to me. The kids were cookie cutter teenagers and the heroine seemed to keep changing personalities.

    I also love Hoyt’s Wicked Intentions. It was the first thing I read by her and it’s the book that really seems to use the setting of St. Giles the best IMHO. None of the subsequent books seemed to make me feel the danger for the characters inherent there like this one did.

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    I’ve enjoyed this conversation because Kerrigan Byrne is in my TBR pile as a new author to read, and Wicked Intentions is a Hoyt book I have not yet read but want to. I’ve skipped around and read only two Hoyt books from the Maiden Lane series but keep hearing good things about the very first one.

    Jean Wan
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    I read Highlander first and wasn’t impressed. Just finished Highwayman and liked it more, but can’t say I Loved it. Have Hunter borrowed and will try that. I’d like to see a story about the Scotland Yard Chief Inspector, from the first book – in a way he made more of an impression on me than the hero, who was super, super, SUPER tortured.

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    The Hunter was by far my favorite of Byrne’s books. I know most people prefer The Highwayman but if I read that first I don’t think I would have kept on with her books. It just didn’t impress me. There is a supporting character in The Hunter who just shows up for one scene with her husband who was so original and interesting to me I was expecting the other books to have a greats supporting “cast” as well. I would love it if she showed up in another book of Byrne’s.

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    Beard Science, Penny Reid (A-) – I really have to give this book high marks if for no other reason than Cletus Winston lives up to his reputation from previous books and his story delivers. I say that with a little surprise too because of all the Winston brothers, Cletus is definitely the oddball. He’s not just strange in his mannerisms, looks and social skills, he’s also devious, scheming, manipulative, and quite brilliant in all his machinations. How can Reid create a story that believably captures such a larger-than-life character, and what kind of woman could possibly be out there as a match for this man? I admit to feeling a little worried that Cletus would be watered down in his own story to become a palatable romance hero. Happily, that was not the case at all and lovers of quirky characters would most likely gravitate to this story.

    The opening chapters when Cletus finds himself attracted to his beautiful new garage mechanic and mistakenly believes her to be his match in life based on his unswerving belief in scientific data was such a great red herring. I’ve read a number of angry fan reviews from readers who felt miffed at being misled by Cletus’s self-professed love interest. They really shouldn’t waste energy on anger though because the town’s reigning Banana Cake Queen is just a positively perfect match for Cletus, and because our focus (and Cletus’s) is on the wrong woman, Jennifer Sylvester sneaks into the story and takes over. Jennifer is chock-full of her own eccentricities, and very importantly for the romance here, some of her oddness mirrors Cletus. Both Cletus and Jennifer are invisible introverts in social situations, and both of them find ways to use their attributes to observe others. Taking a page from many years of Cletus-observing, Jennifer uses evidence she has stumbled upon to blackmail Cletus into being her cohort in a scheme to change her life in a dramatic way. I held my breathe early because Cletus, as we’ve seen and been told numerous times, is a “dangerous” man and does not take kindly to blackmail. How Jennifer manages Cletus and is able to make crucial changes in her life is endearing and emotionally riveting to read, as is Jennifer’s story, which I found very relatable. My one hesitation is that Cletus, once completely besotted with Jennifer by the end of the book, becomes less snarky and mischievous and at times, the story veers into saccharine sweetness. Still, for the first 75% of the book, I was entirely smitten and spellbound watching Cletus meet his match in life, in more ways than one. Now, I’m looking forward to the remaining books, especially Billy’s story.

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    Karina Bliss has a new short story out in the anthology, You Had Me at Christmas called Play. (Tight now the anthology is only $.99.) Play Is Jared and Kayla’s story and they are part of the What the Librarian Did and Rise series. I think it really helps to have read Rise for their back story. This is a reconciliation story with a new rocker and his family adjusting to fame. I sure enjoyed this one and so I am glad the new book, Fall, which is Dimity and I think Seth’s, story will come out around Nov. 1st. Can’t wait.

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    The Raven’s Heart – K.C. Bateman: a C for me.

    The heroine is kinda TSTL, the type who knows she’s in danger and still defies common sense because she wants adventure. The hero is your typical faux spy who’s supposedly a spy but all of his spying is done behind the scene and the most we get is something along the lines of “Raven went to meet xyz to gather information”. He’s also too fond of playing the “I’m not worthy to touch the hem of her skirt” game – right to the very end. The story dragged, OMG, I’m talking about 45 chapters of perpetual lusting on both sides kinda drag. What a disappointment!

    Amanda (RichMissTallant)
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    I’ve been on a roll recently. I’ve read some absolutely fantastic books. Here are my favorite recent reads:

    The Sexy One by Lauren Blakely — this one is loosely connected to the Big Rock series (she considers these standalones and they are but they also feature lots of the same characters). The hero is Simon, the single dad that Harper meets in Mister O, and Abby, Harper’s best friend. It’s a fall-in-love-with-the-nanny plot and I know employer/employee romances are not for everyone. I’m often wary of them myself. But the neat thing is that Abby also tutors Simon in French so that he has a better chance of winning a restaurant contract. It never feels sordid or quicky at all. Highly recommend this one if you’ve enjoyed the other books. I am a total Blakely convert/fangirl at this point.

    To Love and To Cherish by Lauren Layne — final book in the Wedding Belles series and my favorite of hers yet. We finally get the story about Logan and Alexis. This book was tailor made for me! Logan is absolutely swoon-worthy. I know some readers did not warm up to Alexis and I can totally understand why, but I loved everything about this book. I highly recommend this entire series.

    Her Halloween Treat by Tiffany Reisz — didn’t know what to expect! I didn’t read any reviews about this beforehand, just saw it mentioned by a lot of people and highly recommended so I thought, why not? I thought this would be angsty but it was SO funny. Some of the best dialogue I’ve read in a book in ages. I felt like I had read so many really serious books lately and I really needed the mental break this one provided. If you’re looking for something short and “light,” this may be right up your alley.

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    Neanderthal Seeks Human, Penny Reid (A-) – While waiting for the next new release from Penny Reid, I decided to start reading the first book of her Knitting in the City series. It’s wonderful and features a very fun and appealing couple in Janie & Quinn.

    Most of the story is told from Janie’s perspective, which helps here because some illumination of Janie’s odd behavior is much needed. I’m not sure if Janie is meant to be on the autism spectrum, but she does exhibit some behaviors I associate with autism. Janie often has difficulty making eye contact with people, and especially Quinn, the object of her secret affection and lust. She has a photographic memory, a prodigious ability to perform mathematical equations in her head, exceptional ability to see details but trouble seeing the big picture, a tendency to the literalness in life, and some obvious problems communicating effectively with others. She’s, in short, a bit of an oddball. But, despite her weirdness, which the hero fully realizes, she is also super sweet, kind, and cute and has captured the attention of Quinn from the very start of this adorable novel.

    I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say that readers are much better informed of Quinn’s role in Janie’s life than she is. While Quinn appears on the surface to be just a security guard, albeit a very handsome one, in Janie’s office building, very quickly it’s apparent to readers that Quinn actually owns the company rather than just works in it. Nevertheless, Janie, seeing the details only, operates on the assumption for a long time in this story that she has a crush on a fellow worker. After having been humiliated in a previous relationship where she felt inadequate to her boyfriend, she wants more than anything to be on equal footing in a new romance. Quinn cares little about parity. He’s handsome, uber-confident and cool, very wealthy and can have anything he wants in life. To his credit, he wants Janie, and therefore much of his growth as a character involves following the trajectory of his understanding of Janie’s insecurities as he tries to help her realize her own self-worth. He’s almost too good to be true at times in his attempts to put Janie’s needs first. Also, I generally do not like office romances, especially when the power dynamic is so obviously skewed. I sympathized with Janie’s concerns about dating her boss, and so I felt uncomfortable along with her. What makes the story work though is that Janie and Quinn put their love first and work through the misunderstandings and problems that could so easily sink most relationships. I do appreciate too that Reid never allows misunderstandings to dominate the story. My other somewhat minor criticism is the saccharine sweetness of the knitting circle. While I love strong female friendships in books, at times the love and companionship among the women in Janie’s knitting circle felt too perfect. It’s clear that all of the women are introduced here as a preview for their own stories, but I had a bit of trouble differentiating all of them. Nevertheless I loved reading this story and have no hesitation to keep going with this long-running series.

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    Hold Me by Courtney Milan

    Maria (Tina’s roommate from ‘Trade Me’ meets her brother’s brilliant friend Jay, and they get off on the wrong foot, in a Elizabeth-and-Darcy kind of way. However, unbeknownst to either of them they are already online friends who are each attracted to the other.

    I’m loving this series – pretty much inhaled the book, and can’t wait for the next one. (There’s an ongoing story arc, but no cliffhangers.)

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